Greece to welcome tourists back on May 14, outlines 5 lines of defense to reduce COVID-19 risk

4d ago

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Greece officials have confirmed that the country will reopen its borders to visitors on May 14.

“The whole country is safe,” Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis said to parliament in outlining the sun-soaked European nation’s plans to reopen.

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That plan includes a “five lines of defense” strategy. Those lines include:

  • All visitors must be fully vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test result;
  • A checking system at Greece’s airports and borders, where passengers can be selected randomly to take a rapid test;
  • Any visitor who tests positive for coronavirus will be isolated in a “quarantine hotel”;
  • All tourism industry workers must be vaccinated (they will move up the priority list once the most vulnerable Greek citizens get the vaccine); and
  • Strict adherence to safety protocols such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Most notably, all visitors will have to be fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. With regards to the last item, Greek officials insist tourists will have to comply with the same rules that locals do to maintain safety.

What does this all mean for U.S. citizens looking to return to Athens, or make their first visit to one of the Greek Isles like Santorini or Mykonos? At the moment, the latest travel advisories from the U.S. Embassy in Greece say American visitors are still not allowed to enter the country. There are exceptions, of course, but those who do meet those are currently subjected to a seven-day quarantine period.

That could change very soon.

The United States is one of 10 countries Greece is currently talking with about bilateral agreements that would allow its citizens to travel freely without having to quarantine. This requires some sort of digital proof of vaccination, as mentioned above. While the White House has said it won’t mandate vaccine passports, Greece’s “five lines of defense” strategy would view the CDC vaccine card as digital proof to safely enter the country. Alternatively, if a traveller has a negative COVID-19 test result, that would be sufficient under these plans.

Related: What to know about vaccine passports

Greece could be a key element of European airlines’ bounce-back plan. The resumption of tourism in May could lead to additional flights into the country. Already, low-cost airline Ryanair has added extra flights from the U.K. to the Greek Isles. British Airways, anticipating the resumption of Greek tourism, is considering re-routing some of the larger planes in its fleet — like Boeing 787s and 777s — that are sitting idle at Heathrow Airport and using them for shorter flights to the Mediterranean. Emirates has resumed its nonstop fifth-freedom route from New York (JFK) to Athens (ATH).

Bringing tourism back is essential to Greece’s economic bottom line. Many cities and towns in the southeastern European nation rely on the money spent by visitors, and the effects of the year-long pandemic have been incredibly harmful to many local businesses.

Featured photo by WIN-Initiative/Getty Images.

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